Daily Evacuation Brief | February 5, 2024
January 29 to February 5
SIGAR evaluates the last two and half years since the Taliban takeover:
International Conferences and Trade
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Afghanistan Regional Cooperative Initiative Held in Kabul – A regional meeting was held in Kabul with representatives from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India, China and Indonesia present. Taliban representatives reportedly requested that countries respect the Taliban governance model and reiterated that the UN Secretary General Special Representative would only cause further instability in Afghanistan. The Iranian Special Representative for Afghanistan spoke regarding the meeting, stating that Afghan governance should be devoid of discrimination and focus on good relations with neighboring countries.
Doha Conference – A number of people and groups have spoken out requesting representation of civil society and women's groups in the upcoming Doha Conference. Currently, only members of the Taliban will have been invited to represent the country in the UN conference on Afghanistan. Statements have also been made by civil society and women's activists calling for their participation in the Doha conference as the legitimate voice of the Afghan people.
Taliban/UN Meeting — Taliban's Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, met with the UN's Special Representative for Afghanistan to discuss the Islamic Emirate's diplomatic progress and the upcoming Doha conference. Muttaqi emphasized the Islamic Emirate's stance against appointing a new Afghan representative, a key topic for the Doha meeting. He sought further details about the conference's agenda and participants to finalize their participation. The conference is scheduled for February 18.
China Accepts Taliban Ambassador– On Tuesday, January 30, China accepted the credentials of the Taliban Ambassador to China, Maulvi Asadullah making him the first officially recognized Taliban ambassador. This move is a first step towards the two countries normalizing relations and possible China formally recognizing and legitimizing the Taliban regime. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has since stated that recognition for the Taliban is dependent on the formation of an inclusive government and a strong fight against terrorism by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan Transferring the Afghan Embassy — Following the Chinese acceptance of a Taliban Ambassador, The Afghan Embassy in Tashkent was also transferred to the leadership of a Taliban representative. This follows a key meeting between the Taliban's Defense Minister and Uzbekistan's military intelligence chief, focusing on strengthening border security.
Oil Infrastructure Announcement – On January 28, The Taliban Minister of Mines and Petroleum announced a meeting with the head Afchin, a Chinese company to discuss the drilling of 22 new wells in the Amu Darya Basin and the establishment of an Oil refinery. This meeting follows a deal signed between the Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum and the Afghan Ministry of Mines on January 6 with a similar oil extraction deal. It is important to note that China has a significant record of signing similar deals in Afghanistan with little follow through.
US Foreign Relations Committee Meeting on Afghanistan – On Wednesday, the US Congressional Committee of Foreign relations held a hearing on reprisals by the Taliban on US allies left behind. The meeting included testimony from several advocacy groups sharing incidents of attacks and retribution against US allies by the Taliban following the US Withdrawal in August 2021. The hearing was intended to assess the current situation in Afghanistan and provide policy recommendations for the US moving forward.
US Still the Largest Donor to Afghan People – The Special Inspector General released its 61st report to the US congress this week. The report notes that the US remains the largest donor to the Afghan people, both refugees and through humanitarian and development aid. The full report may be accessed here: SIGAR report
Human Rights and Civil Liberties
Assault by Taliban Judge in Takhar – Mawlawi Ehsanullah, a Taliban judge in Chah Ab district of Takhar province, has been accused of sexually assaulting a 60-year-old male employee. The incident allegedly took place in the judge's office about nine days prior to the report. The case has been confirmed by at least three credible local and security sources in Takhar and has been sent to Kabul for further investigation. The Taliban have not yet commented on the case. This incident is part of a pattern of privacy violations and sexual assaults reportedly committed by the Taliban since their return to power.
Taliban Statement on Hijab Arrests – Mohammad Khaled Hanafi, Minister of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice made a statement claiming that only ‘begar women’ were being removed from cities and were being provided help. This is in direct opposition to the videos that have emerged over the past several weeks showing young, mostly minority ethnic group women being detained, arrested and beaten for claims of ‘bad hijab’.
Mullah Publicly Criticizes Taliban – Mowlavi Abdul Shakur of Kunduz recently released a video on social media strongly condemning the Taliban for detaining, torturing and killing those who speak out against oppression under the Taliban. He states that critics are arrested and accused of associations with IS or the resistance and that the individuals are forced to confess to the alligations after brutal torture. He also discussed corruption among the Taliban and the Taliban as the main source of insecurity in Afghanistan during the previous regime. Reports are circulating that Maulvi Abdul Ahakur was arrested by Taliban Special Forces on Friday following the release of his critical video and has been dismissed from his position.
Security and Conflict
Increased Security Checkpoints and Searches– Following a week of increased attacks against the Taliban in Kabul, there has been an increase in the number of police checkpoints around the city and house to house searches in some areas. Those in Kabul are reminded to remain vigilant and use caution around these checkpoints.
Report Suggests Expansion of Terrorist Groups in Afghanistan – A UN Security council report issued on January 29, notes the expansion of terrorist networks including IAKP and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The report states that Al Qaeda has established several new bases and is attempting to expand into Panjshir province. Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesperson for the Taliban, has issued a statement rejecting this report. THe full report can be found here: UN Report January 29
More arrests at Kabul Airport – Taliban Ministry of Interior announced on Thursday that 4 individuals were arrested at the airport for attempting to leave with fake documents.
Increase in Killings around Afghanistan – There has been an increase in mysterious murders across Afghanistan. In just one week, 12 people were killed in five different provinces. The victims include women, children, community elders and former security personnel with the incidents characterized by their secretive and unresolved nature. Local sources attribute some of these murders to the Taliban, suggesting they are either directly involved or indirectly responsible due to the prevailing insecurity. This rise in unexplained killings has heightened fear and uncertainty among Afghan citizens.
Health and Safety
Salang Tunnel Closed – On Saturday, the Salang tunnel closed following heavy snowfall that affected numerous provinces of Afghanistan. Travelers are reminded to avoid traveling through Salang and be cautious of road conditions in areas that received snow. Kabul-Ghor Road is also currently closed as well as Kotel Shatu and the roads to Bamiyan and Daikundi.
Polio Vaccine Campaign – On Monday, January 29, a Polio vaccine campaign began in several provinces, including Herat, Kandahar and Nimruz that aimed to vaccinate 7.5 million children over a period of 4 days. Afghanistan is one of the last two countries in the world where polio cases are still reported. Preventable diseases remain widespread in Afghanistan; at least 21 children have died of measles in Badakhshan over the past several months. Further, the WHO has recently released a report outlining the collapsing Afghan health care system and its impact on health outcomes, particularly for women and children.
As the anticipated Doha conference draws near, there is a growing concern that Kabul and other hot spots might witness a surge in attack frequency and intensity. In response to these potential threats, the Taliban are likely to intensify their security measures, resulting in an escalated security environment in Kabul and some other localities.
The US Embassy, among other official offices, in Pakistan are closed this week as a safety precaution. Pakistan Elections are scheduled for Thursday February 8. There is significant potential for protest, unrest and violence. Afghans in Pakistan should avoid crowds and unnecessary movements during this time, especially as deportations of Afghans from Pakistan continue.
In the weeks leading up to the Doha meeting, there is an increasing likelihood of women's protests in Afghanistan. The Taliban's efforts to suppress these demonstrations may escalate into further violence, including arbitrary arrests, as they seek to deter civil activism.
U.S. Military Response To Death of Soldiers – The U.S. military conducted airstrikes in Iraq and Syria targeting over 85 sites associated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force and affiliated militia groups. These strikes were in retaliation for the drone attack in Jordan. The targeted facilities included command and control operations centers, intelligence centers, weapons storage sites, and other related facilities
A Fatemiyon member, named Sayed Hamza Alwai, dies in Syria as a result of US strikes. Fatemiyon are Iran’s Afghan mercenaries fighting in Syria.
Iran’s Response – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi stated that Iran would not initiate a war but would strongly respond to any acts of aggression or bullying. This statement came amid speculation about potential U.S. retaliation for the attack on U.S. troops in Jordan. Raisi emphasized Iran's right to peaceful technological advancement in the aerospace field and asserted that the country's military power in the region is not a threat but ensures regional security
Imran Khan Sentenced – Former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife were sentenced to 14 years in jail for bribery and an additional 7 years for an illegal marriage. This sentence comes ahead of Pakistan's general elections and follows a prior sentence against Khan for allegedly leaking state secrets. This development has significant political implications, particularly as Khan's party, one of the major political factions in the country, faces severe restrictions in the upcoming elections
Balochistan Fighting – Over the past week in Balochistan, Pakistan, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) carried out a significant attack, resulting in at least 10 fatalities. This incident is part of a long-standing insurgency in Balochistan, Pakistan's largest but least populated province, which is rich in mineral resources and natural gas. Additionally, Pakistan's military responded by killing 24 militants, intensifying tensions ahead of national elections. These events highlight ongoing conflicts and the region's complex security challenges
Elections – Despite increasing pre-poll violence, particularly in the western provinces of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, Pakistan's Election Commission has confirmed that the elections will proceed as scheduled. Recent incidents include the killing of a candidate in a tribal district along the Afghan border and another political leader in Balochistan. A bombing attack following a rally in Balochistan, claimed by Islamic State, killed four people.
International Crisis Group
As most of the world shuns the Taliban due to their violations of women’s and girls’ rights, countries in the region around Afghanistan are dealing with the regime to address their needs for security and economic stability. This region, as the Taliban broadly define it, spans the “Eurasian continents”, from China in the east to Türkiye in the west and from Russia in the north to India and the Gulf monarchies in the south. It encompasses countries closer in, such as the Central Asian states, Iran and Pakistan. The Taliban, like previous Afghan rulers, view Afghanistan as a bridge connecting all these places.
Afghanistan has fallen 12 places to 162nd position in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2023 compared to the previous year, Transparency International reported on Tuesday.
The Taliban continue to detain girls and women in Hazara and Tajik areas of Kabul and beyond for dress code violations. Recent incidents in Dasht-e Barchi, Khairkhana, and Kart-e Char saw young girls and teenagers arrested for wearing white scarves and colorful trousers, facing violence and torture. Released only after family payments and guarantees, these girls now endure strict family restrictions and social isolation. Tragically, some have reportedly attempted suicide, as per accounts from relatives and friends.
On 17 October 2023, Ahmad Fahim Azimi and Seddiqullah Afghan, two activists working with the education organization Fekre Behtar, were arbitrarily arrested at their office in Karta Char, Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, by the Taliban’s General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) District 40. They are accused of working against the Taliban de-facto authorities. After being held for 72 days for interrogation in the GDI District 40, they were trialed on 27 December 2023, and subsequently sent to Pul-e-Charkhi prison.
On December 21, 2023, Taliban Health Minister Qalandar Ibad discussed the state of health care in Afghanistan with Agenda AWANI, a Malaysian news channel, during his visit to the Southeast Asian country.
Anant Mishra and Christian Kaunert
On January 3, the Islamic State (IS) group targeted a gathering (and sent a message) at Kerman in Iran to honor the memory of the late commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC)’s Quds Force Qasem Soleimani, on the occasion of his fourth death anniversary. The attack claimed the lives of over 90 people, with hundreds more injured.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan on Sunday said that the United States will conduct further military action against Iran-backed groups, heightening tensions in the Middle East despite Sullivan insisting that the U.S. is not seeking a wider conflict in the region.
The International News
With the February 8 elections only a few days away amid a recent surge in terror-related incidents, caretaker Minister for Information Murtaza Solangi Sunday assured of peaceful elections as the government will provide three-tier security for the upcoming elections.
"Police would be in the first tier, Rangers and Frontier Constabulary would perform duty in the second tier, while the third tier of security would be with the Pakistan Army as a quick response force," Solangi said while briefing the foreign observers and media persons — who have arrived to monitor the elections — in Islamabad.
Srishti Singh Sisodia
Massive blast rocked the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) rally on Tuesday (Jan 30), killing at least four people and injuring several in Balochistan's Sibi less than 10 days before the general elections are scheduled to take place on February 8.
INTERNATIONAL NEWS RELATING TO AFGHANISTAN
David Williams and Mark Nicol
Hundreds of Afghan soldiers denied relocation to the UK despite standing 'shoulder to shoulder' with British forces on the front line are set to be granted sanctuary in a Government U-turn.
Ministers are expected to announce this week that the cases of at least 400 members of two elite units – known as the Triples – will be reviewed, with the majority likely to be allowed entry to Britain.
THE DAILY WTF
Khalid Hanafi, acting head of the Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice of the Taliban, said in a conference in Paktia that the Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice "guarantees the defense of women's rights".
Afghani to the Dollar: $1 – 75.41 FN (as of 04-FEB- 2024)
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